It’s party season!
Yes, it’s that time of year when the sound of a cork popping is almost as common as that of a car horn honking. Yet it still holds that thrill. There should be a word for that moment when everyone holds their breath just before the cork disengages (“uncorkipation” maybe?) At least one person in the room will clap when they hear it come out. Someone will let out a “woo-hoooo!” It’s never not fun to open a bottle of something bubbly. Heck, it’s still fun even if the cork accidentally shoots off and breaks something valuable.
Champagne is wonderful, but there is a world of sparkling wine (never confuse the two unless it comes directly from the Champagne region of France. Champagne is Champagne, otherwise, it’s sparkling wine) far beyond it. Almost every wine-producing region anywhere makes something bubbly. Surprisingly, while some of it, face it, isn’t so great, a lot of it is pretty fabulous. Champagne gets all the prestige, but it’s time the other sparklers got some love. Don’t think of them as second best!
Consider Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy. There is a massive misconception about both of them, and it’s mostly perpetuated by die hard Champagne drinkers. However, there are great bottles, really great bottles worthy of rap video-level hype. And the best thing is they cost far less than entry-level Champagne.
Most Cava is produced in the Penedes region of northern Spain, ranging from value-driven blends to those made in the Methode Traditionelle (meaning, as it is made in Champagne), even vintage. Other parts of the country sparkle too, with local grapes such as Moscatel, and some yummy, glistening pinks and even purples made with Pinot Noir and/or Monastrell.
High quality Prosecco also has its own growing regions in Italy (Conegliano, Valdobbiadenne or Conegliano-Valdobbiadene when it’s made from grapes grown within the two, and their sub-regions within.) Look out for “Metodo Classico” on non-Prosecco Italian sparklers for those made with grapes other than Glera (Prosecco) in the Champagne method. The word “Franciacorta” (bubbles from Piedmont) is one your taste buds should familiarize themselves with too.
Other parts of France outside of Champagne, such as the Rhone, Burgundy, Alsace, the Loire Valley and Savoie produce some outstanding sparklers both white and pink. Look for words and catch-phrases such as “blanc de blancs” (all white grapes), “pétillant” (essentially another way to say it has bubbles, it’s petullant – bubbling under the surface), crémant and mousseux – seeing these words on a label often signifies a really decent bottle of something you might not have tried before.
But there are other sparkling stories. It’s a great time to get Punkt from Austria, for instance. And Come to America. Today! It’s produced all over the country now, California, Oregon, Washington, New York, of course, but some of the best ones, like Gruet, are made in New Mexico! No really!
For red wine fans, there are crowd-pleasing full-flavored sparkling reds, such as Lambruscos from Italy or sparkling Shiraz from Australia. Why wait for a celebratory excuse? These are fabulous with takeout pizza or barbecue. Or if you prefer an aperitif or something refreshing with dessert, head back to the Italian section for a Brachetto d’Acqui or Moscato d’Asti. These also work well if you’re searching for wines to satisfy picky drinkers with a bit of a sweet tooth, yet they’re still elegant enough to pull off for a crowd at a brunch or shower.
So while Champagne is fantastic, a whole bubbly world exists that can give it a run for its glorified money. Try them out. Heck, invite some friends over and do a blind tasting and compare! Who doesn’t love a little uncorkipation?
- License: Creative Commons image source
Amanda Schuster is a native New Yorker and food & drink blogger for many publications including DrinkUpNY. The mobile landscape of the city has taken her on a whirlwind journey from Medieval historian, photo archivist, jewelry designer and invitation specialist to earning her sommelier certification in late 2005. After working as a retail wine and spirits buyer and freelance brand promoter, she turned to the one thing that has stayed a constant all these years – her love of writing. She has published dozens of articles on cocktails, spirits, wine and other culinary interests, and is currently working on her first novel. Her favorite cocktail is a Manhattan.